Untermyer Park History Past, Present, and Future

Untermyer Park and Gardens, nestled in the heart of Yonkers, New York, is a hidden gem with a rich history and a remarkable transformation. Once a neglected and decaying estate, it has been lovingly restored and revitalized by the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, who refer to it as “Eden on Hudson.”

The park’s current design takes its theme from the Garden of Eden, a concept shared by multiple religions, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It takes elements from gardens from Spain, Italy, Persia, and India in hopes to serve as “A Garden for the World,” standing as a symbol of peace.

Untermyer Park and Gardens now dazzles more than 100,000 visitors each year with its stunning vegetation, views, and architectural elements. In this article, Westchester Woman takes you through Untermyer Park history and its cyclical journey through time, exploring its origin, its heyday, the years of neglect, and the inspiring efforts to bring it back to life and resurrect it as a modern paradise. The story of Untermyer Park is a testament to the power of preservation and community.

Untermyer Park’s Beginning as Greystone

Untermyer Park and Gardens began as 33 acres purchased from the Bolmer Estate by John Waring in 1865. He built a 99-room mansion on it called Greystone and later had to sell the property after his hat factory business went south.

The property was later rented by former governor Samuel J. Tilden in 1879 who later bought it and started some plantings and 13 greenhouses on the estate. Much of his estate was left to the public for the building of libraries in New York City, Yonkers, and New Lebanon. Part of the property was auctioned and purchased by Samuel J. Untermyer.

The Visionary Behind Untermyer Park

Untermyer Park history begins with Samuel Untermyer, a prominent lawyer and businessman who purchased the property in 1899. Untermyer, a prominent male suffragist, was once named “Hitler’s Bitterest Foe” who lead the Non-Secretairan Anti-Nazi League and was an outspoken critic of the dictator, even when he would be singled out for his beliefs.

Untermyer had a passion for gardening and horticulture, and he embarked on a mission to transform the barren land into a horticultural paradise. With the help of architect and landscape designer William Welles Bosworth, Untermyer created magnificent gardens that would eventually become renowned as some of the finest in the country.

The Magnificent Gardens of Untermyer Park

During its prime in the 1920s and 1930s, Untermyer Park’s gardens were celebrated as a horticultural marvel. Spread across the sprawling estate, the gardens featured a variety of themed areas, including the Persian Garden, the Walled Garden, and the Vista Overlook. Each garden had its own unique features, from the imposing columns and statues to the intricate mosaic pools.

One of the highlights of the park was the Walled Garden, with its 18-foot crenelated walls and intersecting water channels representing the four rivers of Paradise. The garden was a tribute to Persian design and captured the essence of a traditional Persian garden. At the north end of the Walled Garden, an amphitheater and soaring sphinx sculptures by Paul Manship added to the grandeur of the space.

Untermyer Park’s Decline and Neglect

Sadly, after Samuel Untermyer’s death in 1940, the estate fell into disrepair. The enormous cost of maintaining the gardens proved too much for the city of Yonkers, and the property was left to decay. Over the years, neglect took its toll, and the once-glorious gardens became overgrown and forgotten.

New York wasn’t the brightest spot on the map in the 1970s. New York City had become violent and grimy and Untermyer Park become covered in graffiti while attracting what same some say were a sinister crowd. As interest in the dark side of the occult grew, rumors of the park becoming a meeting ground for interested parties did as well.

Untermyer Park history tells us that workers at St. John’s Hospital were said to have seen people carrying torches through the woods at night while hearing strange chantings. The Pump House became known as Devil’s Cave, while police reports showed evidence of animal sacrifice with mutilated four-legged bodies found in the aqueduct south of the park. David Berkowitz, better known as the Son of Sam who terrorized NYC with his murderous rampage until his arrest in 1977, reported that a satanic cult based in Yonkers would regularly meet at the park.

The Revival: The Birth of the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy

But the community wasn’t interested in seeing such a place of beauty fall into such ugly darkness and a group of dedicated volunteers joined forces to restore Untermyer Park to its former glory. The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy was formed in 2011 to work with the City of Yonkers with the mission of revitalizing the gardens and preserving their historical significance. Led by Stephen Byrns, the Conservancy embarked on an ambitious restoration project that would breathe new life into the park.

“It was called the most spectacular garden in America in the 1920s,” Byrns told lohud. “It went through a rough period, akin to the sack of Rome. And now we’re bringing it back.”

Restoring the Beauty: A Labor of Love

The restoration of Untermyer Park was a labor of love, requiring years of hard work and dedication. The conservancy brought in a team of skilled gardeners and architects to revive the gardens and recreate their original splendor. One of the most significant restoration projects was the nine-month renovation of the canals in the Persian Garden, which brought back the beauty and serenity of this enchanting space.

As the restoration efforts progressed, new features were added to enhance the park’s appeal. A Ruin Garden was created in the Gatehouse, showcasing the park’s history and adding a touch of mystery to the landscape. What seemed to be a headless horse adjacent to a lion figurine off the Croton Aqueduct Trail was refurbished to its original state as a unicorn. Behind this area is a babbling grotto which serves as a perfect place for quiet contemplation and connection to the divine.

The discovery of a lost rock garden led to its restoration, uncovering a hidden gem that had been buried under years of neglect. One of its most impressive features is The Temple of Love featuring water cascading down from a hill of rocks that sit underneath a dome-topped structure that offers a breathtaking vista of the Hudson River.

Untermyer Park Today: A Garden Reborn

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy, Untermyer Park history is one that has been transformed into a thriving oasis of beauty and tranquility. The flowering bloomed bushes throughout the property are a thing of wonder as are the lotus blossom growing in the center pool in the Walled Garden which is watched over by adjacent sphinxes.

The park’s beauty is directly cultivated by the love and care the gardeners and volunteers put into tending the park. And to them we are grateful. Untermyer now attracts visitors from around the world, drawn to its stunning gardens, architectural wonders, and breathtaking views of the Hudson River and has become a must-visit destination for garden enthusiasts, history buffs, and nature lovers alike.

Here’s a snippet of what you’ll see when you take a walk around Untermyer Gardens this weekend… | Untermyer Gardens Conservancy | Untermyer Gardens Conservancy · 原声

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Events and Programming: Bringing Untermyer Park to Life

In addition to its natural beauty, Untermyer Park has become a vibrant hub for cultural events and programming. The conservancy organizes a wide range of activities, including yoga classes, guided tours, and performances by local artists. These events not only showcase the park’s splendor but also create a sense of community and engagement among visitors.

A Glimpse into the Future: Renovations and Preservation

Untermyer Park history is far from over. The conservancy continues to work tirelessly to preserve and enhance this historic treasure. In the coming years, the Temple of the Sky, an iconic feature of the park, will undergo restoration, ensuring its longevity for future generations to enjoy. Additionally, plans are underway to restore the Persian pool, a project that will further enhance the park’s allure and showcase its rich history.


Untermyer Park is a testament to the power of restoration and community involvement. From its humble beginnings as an abandoned estate to its current status as a world-renowned garden, the park has undergone a remarkable transformation. Thanks to the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy and the dedication of its volunteers, Untermyer Park stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when a community comes together to preserve and celebrate its heritage. As you explore the enchanting gardens, walk among the ancient columns, and take in the breathtaking views, remember the untold story of Untermyer Park and the journey it has taken to become the treasured landmark it is today.

Untermyer Park and Gardens is located at 945 N Broadway in Yonkers. You can find their websites at untermyergardens.org and their brochure here.

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